Viewpoint: Judy Tassone

Dear Neighbor:

Recently you received your tax bill in the mail. Unfortunately, it showed a tax increase. Also included in the town of Salina bill was an insert from the town with an account of the tax increase - inaccurately stating that the county taxes are established by the County Legislature. I find this tax increase very troubling. It is something I voted against and fought hard to oppose. Unfortunately, forces beyond our control as County Legislators lead to this tax increase.

This past September, a county budget was presented by the County Executive to the County Legislature which proposed a significant tax increase due to state mandates. In years past, budgets presented to the legislature would typically show increases of 3 to 5 percent. This year, the proposed county tax increase for the town of Salina alone was projected to be 113 percent.

I opposed that budget proposal, and I went to work at the legislature to reduce the budget and eliminate any tax increase. Weeks later, I helped pass a bi-partisan budget at the legislature which eliminated $45 million from the local county budget decreasing the county taxes from the original proposal. This was done by cutting costs, eliminating programs, abolishing jobs, and utilizing reserve/savings funds. We cut county expenditures by $39 million. During this budget process we also reduced legislature's total spending by 11 percent.

So, why did your tax bill increase? Several factors, all outside of our control, contributed to your tax increase. Mandates required by New York State have soared. The majority of our tax dollars goes to pay for Medicaid and other mandated programs. As times are difficult, more and more residents are using these programs. Costs are on the rise for unemployment, health care, food stamps, pensions and every other program. Also, the resources to pay for these services from both the State and the Federal governments have been reduced and local sales tax revenue has not increased sufficiently to compensate for these increases. The net result was a deficit of $50 million, with a new $17 million in new taxes added, all resulting from these mandates.

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